Shiffrin ties for sixth place in Kranjska Gora giant slalom as Grenier takes win
Edwards skier has another chance to tie Lindsey Vonn for the all-time World Cup wins mark in Sunday's GS
Mikaela Shiffrin is in the home stretch of becoming Alpine skiing’s all-time winningest female athlete. On Saturday, however, a sixth-place finish in the giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia ensured the Edwards skier will have to keep striving for at least another week to reach the finish line.
Shiffrin’s combined time of 1 minutes, 56.34 seconds on the Podkoren 3 course was 1.33 seconds behind Saturday’s winner, Valerie Grenier of Canada. Marta Bassino and Petra Vlhova rounded out the podium.
“I still can’t believe it — I’m so, so happy,” Grenier said.
After winning five straight World Cup events through last Wednesday’s slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, there has been a palpable expectation that Shiffrin would tie, or perhaps even pass Lindsey Vonn’s mark of 82-career World Cup wins — the most by any female Alpine skier — this weekend. Shiffrin has amassed 81 World Cup victories, winning 51 slaloms — a discipline record — 16 giant slaloms, five super-Gs, three downhills and one Alpine combined in 232 World Cup starts. Vonn, who retired at 34 on Feb. 10, 2019 after winning a world championship bronze medal, accumulated her wins this way: 43 in downhill, 28 in super-G, four in giant slalom, two in slalom and five in Alpine combined in 395 starts.
Even Vonn herself recently predicted the 27-year-old would smash her record.
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“[Mikaela] is the best skier that has ever lived in my eyes,” Vonn, now 38, told the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Dec. 22. “She will break my record of World Cup wins very quickly and will become the greatest skier in history.”
Although slalom is her specialty, Shiffrin has won two giant slaloms this year and finished sixth and 13th in two others. She is ranked second in the giant slalom discipline cup standings. On Saturday, however, the day belonged to Canada’s Grenier.
The 2016 World Junior champion posted the top time in run No. 1, with Swiss star Lara Gut-Behrami 0.04 seconds back in second. A pair of Italians, Federica Brignone and Bassino — the giant slalom season leader — sat in third and fourth, while Shiffrin’s relatively slower fourth sector placed her in fifth, 0.31 seconds off the lead.
As the Podkoren 3’s 320-meter course warmed in the 3-degree Celsius weather, the snow turned to a gravely slop in some areas. Petra Vlhova, who said she’s been fighting off the fatigue of chasing Shiffrin, wasn’t bothered by it, though. The Slovak maneuvered the course’s 40 gates to produce her best run of the season and go into first with four athletes remaining.
“I tried to do everything to be faster today,” Vlhova said. “I’m really looking forward to racing again tomorrow.”
Shiffrin followed with a solid run, but compared to Vlhova’s masterclass, it was clear halfway down the hill that the American’s five-win streak was going to come to an end. Shiffrin lost time in each sector, ultimately skiing into a tie with France’s Coralie Frasse Sombet in sixth place.
Somehow Bassino upped the ante even more than Vlhova, sneaking past the Olympic slalom champion by 0.03 seconds, thanks to a brilliant upper section.
“I really like this place and this slope. Today was really fun to ski because the snow was perfect and after Sestriere and Semmering, the feeling wasn’t so good,” Bassino said. “I think I can do better; it’s nice with tomorrow there is another chance.”
But Grenier would not be denied.
“I felt so calm the whole time leading up to the second run. I was very relaxed and thinking about my plan and nothing more,” Grenier said of her vibes before taking to the course.
The 26-years old rocketed down the slope in 57.96 seconds — the fastest second-run time as well — to claim her first World Cup podium and win.
“I’ve been wanting this for so long,” Grenier told reporters afterward. “I’m just going to cry.”
In becoming the first Canadian woman to win a World Cup race since Marie-Michele Gagnon on Feb. 28, 2016, she ended the nation’s longest victory drought in more than 40 years.
Another giant slalom is set for Sunday in Zagreb, with the first run scheduled for 1:30 a.m. MST.